Teachers Institute for Tulsa: A New Look on Professional Development

The Teachers Institute for Tulsa (TIFT) was accepted as one of four members of the League of Teachers Institutes nationwide on November 3, 2017. Teachers Institutes are educational partnerships between universities and school districts. TU joins Yale University, The University of Pennsylvania and The University of Delaware to offer a unique approach to professional development.

This year 27 teachers from Tulsa Public Schools were selected to participate in one of four seminars led by members of the faculty at TU. In the seminars, both university faculty and school teachers, who are named fellows, contribute to the learning process. Faculty provide their knowledge of a subject, and the fellows offer their expertise in pedagogy, their understanding of the students they teach and their grasp of what works in the classroom. Elizabeth Smith, TU’s Department of Education chair, said:

“The Teachers Institute approach works, in part, because it is mutually beneficial and based on collegiality, professionalism and respect among partners.”

The seminars are at the heart of the school-university partnership that reinforces teaching and preparing rigorous curricular material for high-need public schools. Since the launch, the fellows have been busy writing original curriculum units for use in their own classrooms and to be shared with others through electronic publication at Tulsa Public Schools, TU and Yale. Examples of current units under development include:

  • The role of DNA in genetically modified foods
  • Exploring the intersection of art and politics in popular music
  • Examining the role of chemistry in cooking
TU Professor Robert Sheaff leads a seminar in the Scientific Impact of DNA.

TIFT supports Tulsa’s strategic plan to attract, develop and retain highly effective and empowered teachers.TIFT Director Avonna Swartz said, “TIFT provides a more collaborative model in which teachers and professors are considered equal partners. TIFT Fellows create content rich units while collaborating with faculty and other teachers from different schools, grade levels, and learning content.”

Research conducted at The University of Pennsylvania shows that participation in Teachers Institutes increases teacher enthusiasm, heightens teacher morale, increases teacher content knowledge and encourages the use of new technology. Jo Flory, a national fellow and teacher at East Central High School, said, “Participating in TIFT has allowed me to collaborate with content-area experts in my field, which has increased my confidence in the classroom and bolstered my enthusiasm for teaching.”

The seminar subjects take the usual school subjects and step it up a notch. For the 2018-2019 seminars, the topics are:

  • Quantitative Approaches as a Guide to Clear Thinking
  • Science Fiction Literature and Film
  • Museum Exploration and American Values
  • Science and Senses

“TIFT at its core, desires to support teacher quality and satisfaction and consequently, improve student achievement,” Swartz said. “It brings together teachers who deal with students from high-need schools, and they share what works. The fellows design units that engage their students, and they become more empowered teachers.”

For more information about the Teachers Institute, email YNI@utulsa.edu.